Friend: “Hi, Bev. I saw you out this morning.”
Bev: “Pullllleeeze tell me that you when you saw me, I was running.”
Friend: “You were running.”
Bev: (Audible sigh of relief – evidence that something guilty and to the contrary might have been possible. Like walking. Uh oh!)
Friend: “You didn’t look like you were having fun. You were grimacing.”
Grimacing. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard a non-runner remark on the “death face” that runners wear. At best, the grimace hints at effort. At worst, we look like we’re about to heave ... right before our lungs explode and spew goo all over the pavement. But that’s not at all what’s going on behind that set-jawed expression. Inside a runner’s head, there’s joy. For the first time since the last run, the brain is lighting up with oxygen. Thoughts are clear and freewheeling. Stress burns off and sweet relaxation loosens the sinews that hold your life in a grip. And on rare occasions when endorphins rev up and kick in, a runner enters The Zone, where time and space are suspended and every step is as effortless as soaring. Phil Wharton calls it, “Air Velvet.” I almost never hit it. And for sure, this morning I wasn’t anywhere near Air Velvet. But I was not grimacing. I was smiling. I was running.